Hackers freeze Mecklenburg County servers, demand $23,000


MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) — Mecklenburg County had an intrusion Tuesday on their online and computer systems. Hackers were able to freeze servers that prevented county officials from accessing information stored on them.

At this point, officials don’t believe any information has been stolen, but malware was discovered on about 30 servers. Hackers told county officials to pay with the online currency BitCoin, in the amount of $23,000 to get access back to their servers. The deadline is 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett said recent reports of the ransom increasing are incorrect. If the ransom stays at $23,000, the majority of county commissioners support paying the ransom. 

If the ransom increases for any reason, Puckett said they will have to reassess the situation. 

Puckett tells FOX 46 Charlotte the City of Charlotte was able to disconnect from Mecklenburg County on Tuesday when the hack occurred. There is no known issue with the city at this time. 

According to officials, the hackers said that if Mecklenburg County pays up, they will release the decryption code so they can have the servers released and files returned.

It’s unclear what the hackers will do if they don’t receive the ransom amount. There’s also no guarantee hackers will give the decryption code once they receive the money.

Immediately after the hack, the county shutdown their online and computer systems to prevent further contamination of their files on additional servers. This included county email, printers and copy machines. Law enforcement is not involved at this time. 

“The important thing is that nobody’s personal information or health information has been compromised as far as we know at this point. So all that information is intact,” said Mecklenburg County Manager, Dena Diorio.

This all started when a county worker clicked on an email that was infected. It’s unclear at this time how many county employees received the email.

The county backs up all files, so getting the information currently frozen is not a big concern. What is concerning officials is verifying the servers are secure enough to bring back online.

Officials said they have no idea who the hackers are and no way to track them down.

The hack caused issues with call centers, code enforcement applications, and a variety of county systems that are used to provide services to people in the county.

Thursday, they will release a list of services that won’t be available to the public because of the hack. Credit card information is not saved on servers. 

Things may also take longer at county offices because until the issue is resolved because they will be doing things on paper instead of electronically.

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